No. 13 Georgia Holds Off USC Women, 42-40

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By Sports Department

COLUMBIA, S.C. (USC SID) -- No. 18/16 South Carolina dropped a hard-fought 42-40 decision to No. 13/12 Georgia at Stegeman Coliseum Sunday afternoon as both teams struggled to shoot the ball against active, aggressive defensive efforts. The game came down to the final possessions as neither team found much offense in the second half. The Gamecocks (14-3, 2-2 SEC) saw their final shot attempt to tie the game go long in the waning seconds after the Lady Bulldogs left the door open from the free throw line.

South Carolina got 19 points from Aleighsa Welch, which tied her career high, and 10 rebounds from Tiffany Mitchell in the tough loss. Senior Ieasia Walker closed her all-around performance with seven points, seven rebounds, six steals, tying her career high, and three assists.

The teams played to a tie at halftime in a back-and-forth affair. Each team had a double-digit scorer, and the Gamecocks led for much of the period behind Aleighsa Welch’s 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting. South Carolina leapt out to an 8-2 lead before the Lady Bulldog offense got going.

After Welch’s second, third and fourth efforts on a rebound between a pair of Georgia defenders put the Gamecocks up 12-10 with 13:08 left in the half, South Carolina suffered a rash of turnovers, committing seven in a seven-minute span to help the Lady Bulldogs take an 18-15 lead. The Gamecocks had another offensive surge in them, though, and pressed ahead 21-18 behind a pair of baskets from Welch and a pull-up jumper from Tiffany Mitchell with 4:55 left in the period. South Carolina was poised to carry a three-point advantage into the locker room, but Khaalida Miller’s traditional three-point play with 12 seconds left in the half knotted things up at 25-25.

The second half began much like the first in that both teams made separate mini-runs to trade the lead. The Gamecocks came out first with a pair of baskets from Welch, but Georgia answered with six straight points, four coming off South Carolina turnovers, to take a 31-29 lead 16:30 on the clock. The Gamecocks came out of the media timeout and answered with a 5-0 run, keyed by the hard-nosed play of Ieasia Walker who swiped back-to-back steals in the backcourt by out-muscling the offensive player.

Trailing 35-31, Georgia snapped a six-minute drought with a pair of free throws from Jasmine Hassell to start a 5-0 run that would put the Lady Bulldogs in front 36-35 as the Gamecocks committed four turnovers during the two-minute span. The lid went on both baskets after that with the teams combining for a pair of free throws over the next six minutes.

Jasmine James ended the dry spell for Georgia, hitting a tough shot from the right block on an out-of-bounds play to put the Lady Bulldogs up 39-36 with 2:13 to play. The Gamecocks called a timeout, looking for an answer to a nearly 13-minute stretch without a field goal. After Georgia got another basket, Mitchell finally broke through for the Gamecocks with a mid-range jumper on the baseline. Ashley Bruner fought out a steal on an entry pass into the post. She went on a break with Welch, who was fouled hard on the layup attempt.

As Welch went to the bench, Sancheon White hit both the resulting free throws to draw within 40-41 with 44 seconds on the clock. The Lady Bulldogs ran down the clock before putting up a miss that Hassell rebounded. After a Gamecock foul, she hit one of two free throws to stretch it to a 42-40 game. South Carolina took a timeout to set up a final shot, but could not connect.

The Gamecocks return to Columbia for a game against LSU on Thur., Jan. 17, which will be played at Carolina Coliseum. More information about tickets and parking for that game will be released early next week.

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